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Joint Committee on Human Rights says Home Office cultural changes needed to ensure people are treated with humanity and without racial prejudice

Summary:

Parliamentary committee publishes report on Black people, racism and human rights

Date of Publication:
11 November 2020

Joint Committee on Human Rights says Home Office cultural changes needed to ensure people are treated with humanity and without racial prejudice

11 November 2020
EIN

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights today published its report on Black people, racism and human rights.

The full 45-page report can be read here.

It includes a brief but significant look at immigration, specifically at the Windrush scandal.

The Committee says the recommendations made in Wendy Williams' Windrush Lessons Learned Review must be implemented in full as a matter of urgency, and the Home Office must secure the cultural changes needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity and not treated unfairly because of their race.

For ease of reference, we have excerpted the section on immigration in full below:

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House of Commons
House of Lords

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Black people, racism and human rights

Eleventh Report of Session 2019–21

Report, together with formal minutes relating to the report

Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 4 November 2020

Ordered by the House of Lords to be printed 4 November 2020

[…]

Nationality and immigration

76. Evidence to this inquiry argued that the widely acknowledged systemic failings of the immigration system stem from institutional racism in the Home Office, and that this was embedded in nationality and immigration policy and practice. [86]

77. The Windrush scandal arose in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were Black people from the 'Windrush' generation or their children, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights. In 2018 this Committee published a report on the unlawful detention and deportation of these people. The Report examined the cases of two members of the Windrush generation, who were detained wrongfully in breach of their right to liberty (Article 5 ECHR); Mr Anthony Bryan and Ms Paulette Wilson. [87]

78. Wendy Williams, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Her Majesty's Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services, was asked to look into the events leading up to the scandal. In her report , published in March 2020, she stopped short of a definitive finding of institutional racism within the Home Office but noted that "these failings demonstrate an institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race and the history of the Windrush generation within the department, which are consistent with some elements of the definition of institutional racism." [88] In its submission to this inquiry Amnesty International sets out how it believes that the role of racism in the scandal goes much deeper and can be traced back to the original changes to nationality and immigration laws from which the later denial of residency rights stemmed. [89]

79. Summing up the recommendations made in her report Wendy Williams described the three key elements they contain:

"The first is that the Home Office has to acknowledge the wrong that has been done. The second is that it should open itself up to wider external scrutiny. The third is that it has to change its culture to recognise that migration policy and wider Home Office policy has to be rooted in humanity and dignity, no matter what the objective." [90]

80. In relation to the need for culture change, evidence to this inquiry argues that the Windrush scandal and "hostile environment" policies pursued by the Home Office are the consequences of an institutional culture of distrust and indifference towards Black people. A group of organisations expert in immigration law told us in joint submission:

"From the outset, the policies were based on a level of distrust. Theresa May promised to "deport first and hear appeal later." What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? It seems as if this idea does not apply to people who are not white. Such rhetoric exactly mirrors the suspicion that the police treat black people with and this is seen in the disproportionate stop and search statistics. The divisive immigration policies demonstrated that in the eyes of the law, black people were guilty until proven innocent." [91]

81. The Government has said that it accepts the Windrush Lessons Learned Review's recommendations in full. Speaking in the House of Commons on 21 July 2020 the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, set out a comprehensive set of actions the Government plans to take to implement the recommendations including measures to reform the culture of the Home Office. [92] These include a welcome commitment to inviting Wendy Williams to review progress made in 2021. However, we share the concerns of the group of people affected by the Windrush scandal who wrote to the Guardian on 14 October stating that the Home Office's "comprehensive improvement plan" published on 30 September is "long on regrets but short on specifics of how and when appropriate changes will be made." [93]

82. We expect the Government to fulfil its promise to implement the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, in full, as a matter of urgency. Focus must be placed on securing the cultural changes needed to ensure that people are treated with humanity and not treated unfairly because of their race.

The Windrush Compensation Scheme

83. This Committee was deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of Paulette Wilson, one of the two members of the Windrush generation who gave vital evidence to this Committee in 2018 when it inquired into the situation of those who were detained in the scandal. We were also angered to hear that by the time of her death she had still not received full compensation under the Windrush compensation scheme. [94] Home Office figures, released to the BBC under Freedom of Information laws, show that as at 30 August 2020 at least 9 people have died before they received any compensation and fewer than five people have been offered the top level of "Impact on Life" payment." [95]

84. Wendy Williams told us that the compensation scheme is not currently working and is the single issue that is raised the most with her when she does outreach work. The Home Office envisaged there would be 15,000 claimants as part of the scheme but as yet only a fraction of these have come forward to make a claim. [96] Mr David Lammy MP described the situation as a "gross insult" and source of immense frustration among the Black community. In particular, he criticised the decision by the Government to set the threshold for evidential requirements for eligibility for compensation as "beyond reasonable doubt". [97]

85. The Home Office urgently needs to rebuild trust with those communities affected by the Windrush scandal by fixing the compensation scheme, including by lowering the standard of proof for evidential requirements to "the balance of probabilities"; and ensuring that those affected receive the compensation that they are entitled to without further delay.

[97] Q4 [Mr David Lammy MP]